Trade Secrets: Arching, channelling and edgework

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A method that unites all three parts of the making process, for a more coherent and efficient way of working

Ever since violin making school, I approached arching and channelling as different stages of the making process. I used to do the rough arching with a gouge first, then use thumb planes to get closer to the final result, then carve a channel with gouges, and finally blend the channel and arch with thumb planes again. It always felt too disjointed, with too many steps, but it got decent results and I felt comfortable doing it that way. Or, to be honest, I was scared of trying something new and messing up an instrument. I finally summoned up the courage to use a different method on a viola.

There is no viola joke here. Since violas are less standardised than violins, they afford much more freedom to makers. This means I can pretend that whatever I end up with is exactly what I meant to do in the first place. On this instrument, based on a c.1620 Brothers Amati, I approached shaping the plates as a single step, arching and channelling at the same time with a big gouge, and then moving to the smaller tools (thumb planes and scrapers) only for the finishing touches.



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